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A mindblowing ride on Bolivia's famous salt lake

Thomas Anderson's picture
Thomas Anderson looks out of his tent on a chilly morning on Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni salt lake. Cycle Traveller

I knew I was in for something special as I left the strange tourist town of Uyuni and headed towards the famous salt lake, Salar de Uyuni. Though just how magic that part of Bolivia would be I couldn’t have imagined.

The surface was still sandy at the edge of the Salar as I passed the last couple of houses I would see for the next 100km, Then suddenly, all I could see in front of me was the flat plateau of completely white salt.

I hadn’t met another cyclist for months, so imagine my surprise when I saw a couple on bicycles coming towards me – here of all places! The Dutch couple were doing their own three-month tour around this part of South America and were as mesmerised by the place as I was. After a couple of photos we each continued in our opposite directions.

Thomas Anderson, Cycling The Globe in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni. Cycle Travevller

The sun was slowly approaching the horizon, out there far away in the distance. Around sunset I pulled off the track I had been following to set up camp. The colours were magic. This was for sure one of the most memorable places I have ever put up my tent. Luckily there was no wind, as getting the tent pegs into the hard salt would have been very difficult.

Everything turned completely quiet as the last beams of sun hit the Salar; I felt like the only person left in the world.

The Salar happens to be one of the best places in the world to watch the stars, but as the temperature dropped to below -10°C, I didn’t feel like leaving my sleeping bag. In fact, I haven’t done any star gazing at all since arriving in Bolivia – the nights are really cold here!

The next morning as the sun hit the tent things did warm up, and it was time to hit the 'road'. I was following a track that goes all  right across the Salar toward the famous Isla Incahuasi., a dirt island in the middle of the salt. From my map I knew there would be a small community living out there on the island and even a shop and a restaurant. What a strange place!

Thomas Anderson cycle touring on Bolivia's famous salt lake. Cycle TravellerAs I got closer I could see the island in front of me, with bays, beaches, and a mountain; all it lacked was some water around it. I hiked to the top of the hill, enjoying some truly breathtaking views of the Salar.

I had expected an interesting ride through the salt flats, but just how different the whole world feels out here I couldn’t have imagined. A true highlight of my world bicycle trip.

Thomas Anderson is a Danish cyclist who is riding around the world. Cycle Traveller caught up with him while he was cycling in Australia and interviewed him about his experience as a cycle tourist working on an Outback cattle station. You can follow his global adventures on his blog Cycling The Globe or catch him on his Facebook page or Twitter.

Images from top: 1. Thomas looks out from his tent on a chilly morning on Bolivia's famous salt lake. 2. Thiomas on the Salar de Uyuni. 3. Thomas cycling across the white salt crystals. (Source: Thomas Anderson, Cycling The Globe)

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